5 Sep 2009

Staple Kitchen Ingredients

A cook - no matter how novice or experienced - will invariably store a number of kitchen ingredients they trust and are comfortable with (a bit like an old friend), and know like the back of their own hand. The item may be as simple and unassuming as a bag of sugar or macaroni, or a bit more adventurous as in a tube of wasabi paste or a box of loose Lapsang Souchong tea…

Basically your loved and trusted ingredients are almost part of your DNA: you have been using and eating them for years, possibly since childhood, and they define who you are. Even the non-cooks and anti-cooks out there will inevitably have a few basics stored away, in variable quantities: tea/ coffee, sugar, milk, bread, butter, cereals, biscuits, Marmite, soft/alcoholic drink(s)… You might even surprise yourself by finding the odd bottle of Tabasco, jar of honey or tin of spam!

Even the ladies who lunch from Sex & The City will at some point spend time in their kitchens (albeit briefly!), whether for a snatched breakfast, a pie-baking session at Aidan’s wood cabin, or that famous scene where Miranda is decorating cupcakes in a huff for Brady’s birthday party only to be urged by Carrie down the phone to ‘stay away from the icing’!

Cultural heritage and identity will exert a strong influence over the choice of kitchen ingredients. Without resorting to the good old clichés, a typical Italian household will be more likely to store a few different varieties of pasta used for specific purposes, than their Scandinavian counterparts for example, while Far Eastern households will place emphasis on rice, rice noodles and spices. Of course cultural heritage and taste are evolving as people travel more, and are more eager than ever to break away from tradition in order to experiment with food and experience new tastebud sensations, compromising in the process the perennity of the old food clichés.

When once upon a time, tea was the number one drink in Britain, it has now been surpassed by coffee, thanks largely to the café culture revolution that has pervaded the high street over the last ten years, bringing the versatile coffee drink variants to the masses. In the same vein, a traditional pub meal like Steak & Kidney Pie with Chips has been replaced by Chicken Tikka Masala as the most popular dish consumed in Britain today. (Click here to find out more about the history of the CTM).

Meanwhile nowadays you don’t need to travel to France, Spain or Hong Kong to enjoy the best of their cuisine, as restaurants closer to home are likely to offer the same skill, experience and quality (if not better) than the countries of origin! In a recent episode of Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey (BBC2, 20/08/09), a Bangladeshi citizen complained that curries in Bangladesh were not as tasty as in the UK!

As you see, it’s time for us all to dispel the old cultural and geographical clichés and embrace the worldwide fusion food movements!

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